Archive for the ‘Strategic Sourcing’ Category

The ABC’s (or MSPs, VMSs, SOWs) of Temporary Labor

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

 

Today’s post is from our  SafeSourcing archives.

The landscape of temporary labor has changed drastically over the past 10 years.   New business strategic planning processes have created needs and opportunities to source help in ways not previously available before.  Companies are moving to defined stage-driven projects that have clear beginning and ending points that create the opportunity for hiring a contingent workforce driven by focused, definable parameters.  Instead of hiring a group of temporary workers to augment your staff and not knowing if you will really have work for them the entire time they are there, companies have projects with well-defined entry and exit points that can be easily staffed by a professional contingent workforce that optimizes their stay.   This style of contingent labor hiring has created new needs for companies for the management of this workforce and in today’s blog we will be covering some of these aspects.

SOW  – Statement of Work – This is a set of predefined criteria that combines timelines, deliverables, tasks and skillsets needed to complete a project or stage of a project for a company.  Often it will also contain details surrounding the safety, design or other legal terms and conditions which must be adhered to for completion.  The statement of work must clearly define the objective of the project along with expectations of the end result and the timeframe it needs to occur within.  For example a company may have a software project that is going to require 120 hours of development and 50 hours or testing.   To accomplish this they need 2 software developers, 1 database developer, 1 QA resource and a project manager to manage the project which needs to be completed in two weeks.  With an SOW, the need and expectations are clearly defined and contingent resources can then be easily added to accomplish the goal without carrying the burden of those resources long-term.

MSP – Managed Service Provider – With the embracing of SOWs to the contingent labor landscape came the need of partners to help manage the procurement and placement of the resources to make them happen.  While Managed Service Providers tend to be found mostly in the IT space, there are many other service and consulting areas that they can and do oversee.  MSPs may have their own contingent resources from which they can augment their clients’ staffs, but many times they are working with other temporary staffing agencies in order to manage the customer needs.  A good MSP will be able to handle a normal temporary labor staff augmentation as well as SOW needs as they arise.  They understand the needs of their customer and how to most efficiently use the contingent labor while they are onsite saving thousands of dollars in the process.

VMS – Vendor Management System – The tool that is used to manage this process of procuring, tracking and paying the contingent resources used, is typically an internet web-based application that allows a customer to submit a request for resources based on a staff augmentation need or statement of work need. This system will also handle the billing and reporting needed by a customer to track how and when they are spending their contingent labor dollars.  Managed Service Providers will either have an in-house VMS or have partnered with an external VMS provider for this solution.  This tool will help the customer streamline the interview and hiring process as well as act as the collection of time worked and approval system of payment.  Having a VMS makes the SOW process much more effective as it allows the customer to focus on finding resources to fill a specific need more efficiently, finding the right people, quickly, and delivering on-time results.

SafeSourcing has successfully helped dozens of companies evaluate and hire Managed Service Providers and Vendor Management Systems.  For more information on how we can help your team in its own search or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

The Pitfalls of IT contracts

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

 

 

Today’s post is our SafeSourcing Archives.

IT contracts are difficult. 

Now that we have that out on the table let’s follow that up with a second statement:

IT Contracts are usually in the top 5 categories of spend of every company on the world.

When it comes to executing IT contracts the main problem boils down to having a service, software license or piece of hardware requiring a contract the details of which a legal team doesn’t always understand from a technical standpoint and which has legal elements an IT staff does not always push hard enough to improve.  Some companies have developed strong Legal IT staffs to handle this issue but most are letting the IT department review and approve contracts that meet the technical needs without attempting to improve the business or legal elements.   Today we will look at some of the elements which the legal and IT team should be working together on ensuring meet the standards needed by their company.

Technical Aspects  – Obviously the most important first step is to ensure that the service or product meets the technical requirements of the business.  This is accomplished by having a well-defined Statement of Work which clearly defines the roles of both parties and what will be delivered during the course of the contract.  For hardware and software this defines how much each party is responsible for the installation and configuration of the project and the support of the project moving forward.  This includes testing, specifications of what the solution needs to deliver, the timeline for delivery, and what is covered by warranty or maintenance and support agreement.

Legal Aspects – Once the technical requirements are met then the legal team needs ensure that all of the language surrounding the engagement and contract are also met and to the satisfaction of the company’s best interest.  One of the first sets of details must surround protection in case the relationship is not executed according to the agreed upon terms.  It is the job of the business to foster a productive and beneficial relationship with the vendors and the legal team’s responsibility to plan for the protection in case that does not occur.  Defining the governing laws and jurisdiction of a potential disagreement, precedence of documents attached to the agreement,   as well as details surrounding the termination of the agreement by either party are all things which must be examined so that the business can be protected from every angle.

Business Aspects – Several aspects affect the business portion, but most of them boil down to two areas; ownership details and pricing details.  Understanding the details of who owns the product is extremely important not only for various accounting reasons but also from a liability standpoint.  If anything happens to the product, who owns it and when will determine who takes on the cost to repair or replace that product.  Having this defined in advance will influence testing, evaluation, timelines and acceptance of the installation efforts.  Pricing is also very important and should be examined closely to ensure the company has the best terms in the way of payment schedule, rebates, discounts and other factors that will result in the best possible pricing and what has historically been ultra-high margin goods and services.

SafeSourcing routinely works with our customers’ IT departments on procurement projects to ensure many of these details are laid out and agreed upon before an award decision is even made.  For more information on how we can help your team with IT projects or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

Contrarian, or just hipster?

Monday, August 29th, 2016

 

Today’s post is by Mike Figueroa, Project Manager at SafeSourcing

It’s popular these days to be contrarian, thanks largely in part to the disruptive entrepreneurs of silicon valley that have become just as well known for the products they create as any A-list celebrity. Reading business articles on the topic makes it sound like being contrarian is never a bad thing. However, while “contrarian” can mean just someone who goes against popular opinion, doing so just for the sake of being contrarian can be very dangerous. While there is some merit to the notion that doing something which everyone else thinks is crazy might just seem that way because it’s a hugely innovative idea, there are far more people who do crazy things that simply are monumentally bad ideas[1]. The way tech and investment entrepreneur Peter Thiel puts it, what matters is being “contrarian and right[2]. Being contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian makes you a hipster[3], being contrarian and right makes you innovative.

The common thread that runs through these instances of unpopular opinion is the need to have the skills to identify a good idea. For some reason, business journalists repeatedly fail to see the obvious when they praise a business leader’s being different as the means to the success, without realizing that it was the business leader’s ability to find truths that lead them in a non-conventional direction that led to their success. The obvious danger here is that you can just as easily think differently from popular thinking, and be wrong. So how do we avoid falling into the trap of believing that thinking different is always a good thing, without missing the possible opportunities of truly innovative thinking?

    •  Slow the conversation: Contrarians thrive on rapid fire dialog, with the intention of getting your buy-in of their first point, by moving on to several other points before you’ve had a chance to think of reasons why their first idea might be a bad idea. Don’t allow anyone to gain your tacit approval by not giving you time to object.
    • Don’t fall for “mood bullying”: At times, a contrarian thinker will push to get their idea accepted not based on its merit, but by making it uncomfortable for anyone else to reject it. Don’t fall for bad ideas just because you don’t want to deal with the drama that will ensue for questioning someone’s ideas.
    • Contrarian and argumentative: A telltale sign that someone is being contrarian just to be hip rather than for the merit of an idea, is to observe how argumentative they are. If someone will argue against every idea that isn’t theirs, and perhaps even argue against their own previously mentioned ideas, there’s a good chance they aren’t trying to bring value to your organization, but to their own ego.
    • Fail quickly: If you come across an idea that goes against conventional wisdom, but the reasoning behind it is solid, iterate its implementation. Today it’s easier than ever to create prototypes quickly. Commit a small project to an innovative idea, and let it prove itself by succeeding or failing quickly and in a low risk environment.
    • Evaluate the foundation/first principles: When Pokemon Go™ exploded onto the scene; investors saw the trend and invested heavily into Nintendo™. However, in this case the contrarians were right to go against the flow: Nintendo™ didn’t actually create the Pokemon Go™ game, and once it became obvious, Nintendo™ stocks plummeted[4]. However, having the skill to identify underlying principles that lead to a market bubble for instance is a contrarian skill based on an understanding of economics that can be objectively evaluated.

Contrarianism should be a byproduct, not a goal. Innovation entails thinking differently about something because there is an assumed truth being bought into that is wrong, or an underlying truth that by and large everyone else has missed. There were contrarians in the 90’s after all, who thought the internet was a fad, and whose businesses were destroyed by other contrarians that understood the fundamentally exponential potential of network externalities and brought us internet connected devices of every shape and size. The act of understanding more deeply, having a wider breadth of knowledge, and learning a wider toolset of logical and critical thinking skills will result in having views that differ from others in ways that add value without even trying.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

————————————————————————————–

[1] “A Painful Year for Contrarian Trades – A Wealth of Common Sense.” 2016. 15 Aug. 2016 <http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2015/12/contrarian/>

[2] “E525: Peter Thiel (Founders Fund, PayPal, Palantir, Facebook) on …” 2015. 14 Aug. 2016 <http://thisweekinstartups.com/peter-thiel-launch-festival/>

[3] “http://www.bullbearings.co.uk/ 2014-12-18 monthly 0.5 http://www …” 2011. 14 Aug. 2016 <http://www.bullbearings.co.uk/sitemap.xml>

[4] “Nintendo shares plummet after investors realize it doesn’t … – The Verge.” 2016. 15 Aug. 2016 <http://www.theverge.com/2016/7/25/12269466/nintendo-stock-plunge-pokemon-go>

Goals!!!!

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

 

 

Today’s blog is by Margaret Stewart, Executive Assistant at SafeSourcing.

Today, businesses often set goals, not only for the company as a whole, but also for specific departments, teams, and individuals. The goals a business sets may be for different reasons, be it financial, team building, or development. Failing to meet certain goals can have negative consequences for a company, where meeting and exceeding goals can have an incredibly beneficial and rewarding outcome. So, how should a company set up and achieve its goals?

Figuring out the direction the business needs to head is the first step toward setting goals. Determine what areas of your business need the most work or improvement. You could set a sales goal for a month, set a goal for hours worked on a task, or set progress goals on a project. The goals set should be challenging, yet attainable. It’s okay if your team works a bit harder, but when a goal is virtually out of reach, efforts drop substantially and frustrations go up.

Next the level of goal you expect needs to be calculated. When first implementing goals, try setting one that is between current performance levels and the ideal level. Then, if goals are consistently met, then goals can rise as well. Setting goals too high or too low can hinder motivation in your business.

Finally, reward those in your business who meet goals. Often, the final reward is motivation enough for employees to put in the extra time and effort. Just as goals can be big or small, rewards can too. Some common rewards are bonuses, extra time off, prizes, or outings.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can help you with your business goals, or are interested in our Risk Free trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative. We have an entire team ready to assist you today.

Google search tools

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

 

Today’s post is by Mike Figueroa, Project Manager at SafeSourcing

Google’s search algorithms are notoriously complex and secretive. After all, if a savvy online company cracked the code to becoming the first result you see no matter what your search, they could stand to profit immensely. The ambiguity and complexity also makes it difficult to conduct research effectively and avoiding false-positives within your search results. What many users don’t know is that there are many shortcuts embedded into the search bar that allow you to get more specific with your results. We have passed through the many shortcuts available, and ranked the ones we think would be the most helpful to any procurement professional:

Search term format, followed by description:

    1. Word1 Word2: The default search parameter used by most users will search BOTH terms as separate terms. Therefore your search results won’t necessarily use the same word order, which may not return the correct results when using compound words or specific phrases.
    2. “Fourscore and seven years ago”: Using quotation marks will search the exact phrase entered in its exact order. This is best used for searching exact quotes, or product descriptions that must have an exact match.
    3. Star -Trek: Is your search result giving you too many false positives? If searching a word like Star is giving you too many results within a popular science fiction category that doesn’t belong in your scope, placing a “-” symbol before a second term will prevent the results from returning results containing that second term.
    4. Logistics site:www.safesourcing.com: Enter a search term, and then use “site:” to limit the search results to a specific domain. This can be helpful when looking for a specific product within a manufacturer’s website, but aren’t certain where to find it.
    5. Filetype:pdf: This shortcut allows you to search for files of a certain extension type. For instance, if looking for a sample specification, sometimes limiting your search to a pdf or word filetype will return the most relevant results.
    6. Fluid Milk Type VI 2008…2013: Placing three periods between two numerical terms will limit your results to between those numbers. For instance, if you are conducting historic market research for a commodity within a certain timeframe, this search will only return results containing numbers within the year range given. This can be useful if shopping for within a known price range as well.
    7. Related:www.cmegroup.com: When looking for similar suppliers or services, a “related:” search can be helpful for returning other sites of similar scope.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

 

 

Cold calling is a necessary part of all businesses, not just sales.

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

 

Today’s post was written by Christine McConnell, Account Manager at SafeSourcing.

I come from a history of cold calling. When my mom was in junior high (circa 1955), my grandmother started her own catering business. A hard working Hungarian immigrant, she would sit at their kitchen table every Sunday afternoon after church and call the family of every single young woman listed in the engagement announcements to ask if they had decided on a caterer. My dad is a mechanical engineer, turned salesman, who spent the bulk of his career in the tool and dye industry selling everything from diamond grinding wheels to linear ball bearings.

I guess you could say that I was born into it. Although I resisted for the first several years of my career, once I finally gave in to the sales call, I never looked back. One of my favorite parts of the sales cycle is the cold call. It’s the first introduction of the product or service that you have to offer to a person or business that may have a need for it. I see cold calls as a challenge, each one a fresh opportunity. Apparently not everyone feels the same way. Here are a few suggestions that might help your cold calls be a little less frightening and a little more fun… like mine!

  • Be Confident. Go into each call with confidence and optimism. You are a business professional providing a viable product or service to someone whose company might very well have a need for it.
  • Listen. You’re prepared. You have a good understanding of your value proposition and basic understanding of the businesses that you’re calling on. Now have a conversation, paying close attention to what’s being communicated verbally and otherwise.
  • Be Yourself. Believe it or not, discomfort is easily perceived over the phone. You do not have to be unnaturally pushy or super aggressive to make sales calls. Using your own assets and unique personality to create a genuine rapport can be much more effective.
  • Speak at a Normal Speed. Or even slightly slower than normal, and enunciate. You want to do everything you can to help your potential customers hear what you’re saying. There is nothing worse than struggling to understand someone who is speaking too quickly or mumbling.
  • Be Succinct. Get to the point quickly, keeping in mind of course that if your potential customer feels like engaging in a little small talk to feel more comfortable, you’ll be happy to oblige.
  • Know Who To Ask For. When making sales calls, do your best to understand who the decision maker is for your particular product or service. For some clients, it might be VP of Marketing, for others it could be the head of Human Resources. Learn who makes the final decision before picking up the phone, so you’re not wasting their time or your own.

Would you like to learn how SafeSourcing could help your company run more efficiently? Interested in a risk free trial? Please don’t hesitate to contact SafeSourcing. Our team is ready and available to assist you!

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

 

Why are there so many kids outside?

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

 

Today’s post is by Troy Lowe; Vice President of Development at SafeSourcing.

If you haven’t already heard there’s a new app taking the world by storm. Pokémon Go is a new free application that can be downloaded to Android and iOS.  According to an article on Forbes.com on July 11th, 2016, the application has at least 7.5M US downloads on iOS and Android (Google Play only) since early Thursday, with $1.6M in daily revenue in Apple’s iOS store alone.  The application is free to play, but purchases can be made within the application to improve player’s experience.  The object of the game is to capture, train, and battle virtual Pokémon while roaming around your town or neighborhood using the location-based augmented reality application.

There’s one positive side effect coming from the playing the game that kids may not realize and that is the app is getting them outside and exercising, which is the opposite of most of the games they are used to playing. I can attest to this because I have two children that downloaded the app last evening and have already caught the Pokémon Go fever.  Since it’s summer vacation, they usually sleep in but they were up by 8 this morning and roaming the neighborhood for wild Pokémon.  I’m not sure how long this craze will last but it pleases me to see they’re having fun and enjoying the outside like my generation.

Interested in learning how SafeSourcing can help your company run more efficiently? Like to try a risk free trial?  Please don’t hesitate to contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. Our team is ready and available to assist you!

 

When Good Companies Make Good Vendors

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

 

Today’s post is from our SafeSourcing Archives.

In a previous issue Fortune Magazine published the top multinational companies to work for to compliment the top 100 US companies list they release every January.  Some of the highlights included donating money on behalf of their employees, offering extra money and vacation at long term anniversary, providing on-site childcare, and free breakfast buffet and game rooms.  You may be wondering what this has to do with your company.  The answer is everything.  When your suppliers are doing things right and creating a great place for their employees to work, it means they can service you better, provide better prices and products and have employees who are happier to work with your company.

In today’s blog we will be looking at a few other areas that suppliers are evaluated against that should be part of how you measure your potential and existing suppliers.

Non-Profit Organization Ratings – Along with industry reviews, there are also organizations like the Better Business Bureau who give its ratings to companies based on complaints that have been logged against those companies and any other information available.  Others sites like Angie’s List and customer driven feedback sites allow you to see consolidated views of the companies, services and products.  These sites go beyond surveys and get right to the customer feedback you are looking for.

Peer Opinion – One of the most valuable questions you can ask a supplier but one that is rarely asked is “Who are your top three competitors?”  By asking all of the vendors this question during an RFI or RFP process you will quickly understand the landscape of who the leaders in the field are and how they view each other.  This can be valuable information to get from the companies who know their industry the best.

Industry Reviews – There are so many organizations these days whose sole purpose is to research and rank other companies against one set of criteria or another.  This BLOG was sparked by one of these surveys performed by a financial periodical, but there are other major companies like Gartner and Hoover who regularly publish the findings of their research for both companies and products.  These types of surveys and research results are important because they include the same types of criteria found in an RFI and are performed by independent organizations saving your organization some valuable research time.

Certifications – Almost all organizations have been certified for one reason or another depending on the industry they belong to.   Many times their customers have no idea that they carry these certifications.  Capturing these during an RFI or RFP process will help you better evaluate the vendors you do business with.  Another way of getting this information is to go to the Certifying Organizations websites to find out which companies have been certified by their processes.

Understanding your potential and existing suppliers and how they compare in areas outside of the normal metrics, can help you develop good partnerships well in advance of any final contract with them.  For information on how SafeSourcing can help you gather these types of details, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.

We look forward to your comments.

How to identify good ideas – Episode I

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

 

Today’s post is by Mike Figueroa, Project Manager at SafeSourcing

Creativity is the ability to come up with novel ideas, but innovation doesn’t occur until those ideas are productive. Many businesses end up chasing ideas that never bring any productive value, because the idea was adopted for reasons that were not objectively measured and vetted. There are two primary things we should be considering when trying to determine whether an idea is good or not: Value, and Validity.

Value and validity is NOT contained within an idea just because:

  • It was given loudly
  • It was given by the highest ranking voice in the room
  • It was given from someone with many ideas
  • It was given eloquently

These are all attempts to validate an idea through personality, not value or validity. Everyone has ideas, but quantity doesn’t mean quality. How many musicians have you heard that put out a brilliant project, but followed up with something that made you question their talent altogether? The true talent lies in the ability to order, demonstrate, communicate, refine, reject, and select their ideas.

An idea has value when:

  • It solves an identified problem
  • There is a specific benefit
  • It supports a specific goal

An idea has validity when:

  • The facts behind it are true
  • There is hard evidence backing up what’s being proposed
  • There are specific numbers taken into account, calculated correctly

Adopting an idea just because it “sounds good”, “feels good” or “makes sense”, doesn’t mean it will accomplish everything it needs to in the context of the conversation being had. It can be easy to get lost in the weeds, forget what you were trying to accomplish, and adopt the idea given by the most senior representative in the room with the most passionate speech, even if solves a DIFFERENT problem than the one you met to solve in the first place.

Objectivity means you can separate yourself from the object, measure the object with other objects, view it from a perspective outside yourself. Subjectivity means you can’t see the periphery, you can only see from a perspective from within yourself, and therefore can’t bring in anything not dependent on you to measure against. Don’t get lost in complex narratives, appeals to emotion, or appeals to authority in your meetings. There are more specific methodologies available for qualifying ideas, and I’ll get into those in future posts (Six Sigma perhaps being the most well-known, but cumbersome methodology). But for now, just remember that you have the ability to step back, look at the bigger picture, and find the appropriate solution by measuring each idea’s value and validity objectively.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

 

 

 

When should you consider a generic product?

Friday, June 17th, 2016

 

Today’s post is by Troy Lowe; Vice President of Development at SafeSourcing.

Comparing alike products and deciding which is best can be a very daunting task. Should you buy a name brand or will the generic option meet my needs?  These are a few questions that can enter in your mind during the decision making process.  Some people feel more comfortable purchasing name brands.  If this is the case, you may be able to get the name brand item cheaper than the generic by watching sales, using coupons or utilizing price matching.

Some items purchased may not make a difference in cost because of the frequency purchased. For example, choosing a generic food item; it may be a little cheaper but you only purchase it once or twice a year.  In this case you may want to settle for the brand that you enjoy.

When it comes to more expensive items you may want to purchase a generic over the name brand if it’s something that you may only use a few times a year. If it is something that will be used more frequently then you may want to stick with a reputable brand that is known for its durability and warranties.

When purchasing over the counter medications, you may want to purchase the generic form. These generic medications are regulated by the FDA and must contain the same active ingredients, strength, dosage form, route of administration and label.  This ensures that the generics will have the same benefits as the brand name equivalents.

Keep in mind that buying a generic product doesn’t always mean that it is an inferior product. Some generic products are often made by the same name brand companies but are packaged differently.

Interested in learning how SafeSourcing can help your company run more efficiently? Like to try a risk free trial?  Please don’t hesitate to contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. Our team is ready and available to assist you!